“Don’t cut surprise safety inspections,” urges expert

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“Don’t cut surprise safety inspections,” urges expert

7th March 2011

An expert in workplace safety has urged the Health and Safety Executive to reconsider "misguided" plans to reduce the number of unannounced inspections, amid fears the cuts would lead to an increase in worker injury.

The BBC reported that it has obtained a leaked letter in which proposals are recommended to withdraw inspections from a number of industry sectors, including some where there is 'significant risk' of workplace injury. Karl Tonks, head of the Employers' Liability department at Fentons Solicitors LLP, said that although it appeared no final decision had been made by the HSE, it was clear that reducing the inspections was being seriously considered.

"The HSE is facing a 35% reduction in its government grant, so clearly cuts will need to be made," said Karl, a partner with the firm. "But to look at reducing the number of so-called 'knock on the door' inspections seems short-sighted and misguided.

"Thousands of these visits are carried out across the UK every year, and they are viewed by safety experts as a key factor in the prevention of accidents and the successful enforcement of regulation," he said. "The number of workplace deaths is currently at an all-time low, which would strongly suggest the approach is working. To change it now can only lead to the number of injuries - and potentially fatalities - increasing."

In a letter obtained by a BBC radio programme, HSE chief executive Geoffrey Podger outlined plans to reduce the surprise HSE inspections by a third.

The BBC reports that the letter is a 'blueprint of proposed changes to HSE operations' following a 35% cut in its government grant. It recommends a departure from face-to-face contact in favour of web-based and other initiatives.

"While the letter states that high-hazard sectors such as the nuclear, offshore and chemical industries will be protected from the proposed cuts, it also outlines two unnamed categories where the inspections will be entirely withdrawn," said Karl. "While I can appreciate that budget cuts are affecting everybody, it seems that these proposals could lead to certain industries becoming deregulated entirely.

"The whole purpose of the unannounced inspection is to ensure that all regulations are being observed at all times. By removing the risk of being caught in breach of these regulations, then so too is the motivation to comply with the rules removed.

"If that happens, then clearly more of our workforce will be put at risk."

How can Fentons Solicitors help?
Fentons has a specialist department experienced in handling claims for victims of accidents in the workplace.

If you think that you have a case or require further information contact Fentons on 0800 0191 297 or fill in the online claims questionnaire.

Read more at BBC News